History Files
 

Far East Kingdoms

East Asia

 

Buyeo / Puyo (Hae) (Korea)
Incorporating Bukbuyeo & Jolbon Buyeo

The Korea of the late classical and early medieval periods was for the most part divided into three kingdoms, although others also existed. The largest of the three, Koguryo, actually lay on the southern edges of one of those others: the state of Buyeo (or Puyo, Puyŏ, or Fuyu in earlier twentieth century works, prior to more recent retranslations of many Chinese and East Asian names). Records concerning its creation, though, seem muddled. What is often claimed in modern sources as the foundation story for Buyeo actually concern the foundation of neighbouring Dongbuyeo, while Buyeo appears to arise quite some time before it (the span of several rulers, in fact).

According to legend it was Hae Mo-su of Joseon who founded Buyeo, presumably being remembered because he forged one or more previously tribal entities into a kingdom. This region had formerly been part of the proto-Korean Seo Dansan culture. He may not even have existed, however, possibly being a later creation. His 'son', Hae Buru, moved his people to the east in 86 BC, creating what was or soon became a 'division' of Buyeo known as Dongbuyeo, or 'eastern Buyeo' which would survive until AD 22. After that, the earlier state was often referred to as 'Bukbuyeo', or 'northern Buyeo', in order to differentiate it.

Once the state of Dongbuyeo had been destroyed in AD 22, another splinter or surviving pocket emerged almost immediately in the form of Galsa Buyeo (or sometimes simply as Galsa, suggesting a tribe or tribal region that was temporarily dominated by Dongbuyeo's surviving nobility). This managed to struggle on until AD 68 when it was conquered by Koguryo. There seems to be a lull in proceedings of perhaps half a century before it becomes clear that a state - a fresh one or a continuance is unclear - by the name of Buyeo still exists in the territory to the immediate north of Koguryo, pretty much where the original state had been founded.

At some point, Bukbuyeo underwent a radical change of state leadership and was renamed Jolbon Buyeo, although this may instead have referred to the royal court of Koguryo, effectively a descendant state of Buyeo. That 'radical change' would instead have been the foundation of Koguryo. Bukbuyeo itself largely collapsed in 285 and had to be rebuilt. It suffered an even greater collapse in 346 when the Xianbei largely destroyed all but a rump state. That managed to continue until 494, largely protected by Koguryo until increasing Wuji dominance forced the population to migrate southwards into Koguryo proper. In 538, Baekje adopted the name Nambuyeo, meaning 'southern Buyeo' to establish its own credentials as one of Korea's founding kingdoms. The names of the ruling historical dangun (in effect, king) that are shown below are in their twentieth century forms first, followed by more recently revised interpretations. The use of 'wang' is in fact a title, another effective equivalent of 'king'.

Whatever the confusions of its history, Buyeo serves as a bridge between the semi-legendary state of Gojoseon and the fully-historical three kingdoms of Korea. The state grew out of tribal beginnings in what today is Manchuria in the far north-eastern corner of China and perhaps straddling the border with modern North Korea. It emerged in the late second century BC along with several other small tribal states at the northern extremes of Korea, Koguryo being one of these. Buyeo, though, matured into a more coherent and organised kingdom well ahead of its southern neighbour. In fact it was a prince of Buyeo who, when fleeing Buyeo itself following a power struggle, found refuge in the Tongge river basin on the edge of the modern North Korean and Chinese border where he organised a group of five tribes or clans into the beginnings of the kingdom of Koguryo.

South Korea's flag

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Michael Welles, from A New History of Korea, Ki-baik Lee (1984), from Pacific northeast Asia in prehistory: hunter-fisher-gatherers, farmers, and sociopolitical elites, C Melvin Aikens (WSU Press, 1992), from Military Culture in Imperial China, Nicola Di Cosmo & Robin D S Yates (Harvard University Press, 2009), from Records of the Three Kingdoms, Chen Shou (third century text which covers the period AD 184-220 and which combines individual histories of the three kingdoms), from The Origins of Northern China's Ethnicities, Zhu Xueyuan (Beijing 2004), from A History of Korea, Charles Roger Tennant (Routledge, 1996), from Samguk Yusa: Legends and History of the Three Kingdoms of Ancient Korea (Book 1), Il-yeon (Translated by Tae-Hung Ha and Grafton K Mintz, Silk Pagoda, 2006), and from External Links: Three Kingdoms (Encyclopaedia Britannica), and Zizhi Tongjian: Comprehensive mirror to aid in government (ChinaKnowledge.de), and Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom (UNESCO), and Encyclopaedia Britannica, and The Koguryo Controversy, National Identity, and Sino-Korean Relations Today, Peter Hays Gries (available as a PDF via ResearchGate), and New World Encyclopaedia, and Academic Kids Encyclopaedia, and Enacademic.)

fl c.140? BC

Hae Mosu / Hae Mo-su

Founder of Buyeo / Bukbuyeo from Wiman Chosen.

Hae Mo-su is the semi-legendary founder of the state of Buyeo or Bukbuyeo, the son of heaven who rides to establish the state in a chariot pulled by five dragons. Instead he may be a former general from Gojoseon, one of many who strikes out on his own following the abdication of the last ruler there.

Map of East Asia c.100-37 BC
The fall of Wiman Choson spawned the state of Buyeo which proved to be the founding point for Dongbuyeo, Galsa Buyeo, and Koguryo (possibly to be identified with Jolbon Buyeo), which would unify the whole of northern Korea and the Korean territories in today's Manchuria (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Presumably he creates a level of formalised hierarchy to govern the previously-tribal polities of the region. However, he is not mentioned in older Chinese records concerning Buyeo, or even those from early Koguryo. There is a chance that he may be an invention of later Korguryo to provide that state with a suitably mystical beginning after it has absorbed Buyeo itself (by AD 494). The alternative is that his story is hijacked by Koguryo for that same reason.

fl c.135? BC

Go Mosuri

Son? Ruler of Bukbuyeo.

fl c.130? BC

Go Haesa

Son. Ruler of Bukbuyeo.

c.121 - 86 BC

Go Uru

Son. Died.

86 - 48 BC

Hae Puru / Hae Buru

Brother. Fled to found Dongbuyeo (86 BC).

86 BC

At some point in his reign - possibly at the beginning - Hae Buru apparently follows the recommendations of one of his ministers and leads his immediate followers and numbers of Buyeo's common folk to the settlement (referred to as a city) of Gaseopwon, which is located near the Sea of Japan (otherwise referred to as the East Korean Sea). He effectively re-founds the state when he names it Dongbuyeo, meaning 'eastern Buyeo'.

It seems harder to find mention of a reason for this migration, but it is due to a dynastic squabble for control of Bukbuyeo with Go Dumak, which the latter wins. Hae Buru's migration is in fact a flight by the defeated party while the latter takes the state from his former stronghold in the remnants of Wiman Chosen. He later submits to Go Dumak to avoid further conflict.

fl 86? - 60? BC

Go Dumak / 'King Dongmyeong'

Relative. Seized Bukbuyeo from Wiman Chosen.

60 - 37 BC

Go Museo

Son. Ruled Bukbuyeo. Granted Koguryo's founding.

37 BC

The traditional date at which Koguryo transitions from what would appear to be a tribal state into a formal kingdom is 37 BC. It is founded by Chu-mong and claims a level of continuity from Buyeo itself, seeing as Chu-mong is a prince of Buyeo's royal court who is forced to flee following a power struggle (his brothers resent his presence and conspire to expel him).

Tomb of the Dancers in Koguryo, Korea
The state of Koguryo later produced the Tomb of the Dancers (in the fifth century AD), part of which contains wall paintings which display the hunting activities of its people

The kingdom he subsequently founds has territory which abuts the southern borders of Buyeo, and would appear to be the source of mentions regarding Jolbon Buyeo. Apparently, it is Go Museo of Bukbuyeo who hands Jolbon Bukyeo to Ch-mong two years after ascending his throne (58 BC). This would seem to be too early for the official founding date of Koguryo, but it would serve to account for the setting up of the later kingdom as a division of Bukbuyeo.

What of Buyeo (or 'Bukbuyeo') in this period? It has been founded by the near-legendary Hae Mo-su, and governed by several successive rulers, largely being responsible for instigating the creation of Dongbuyeo. Now the heirless Go Museo dies, seemingly very shortly after granting Jolbon Buyeo to Chu-mong. No replacement is named, and the state disappears from the historical record until it establishes formal diplomatic relations with the Late Han in AD 32. It has to be assumed that it forms part of Koguryo's early tribal domains, until some form of division emerges towards the end of the first century AD.

AD 22 - 68

After starting a war against Koguryo, the state of Dongbuyeo loses several battles and suffers increasing losses. Its ruler, Daeso, is killed by Koguryo's third ruler, Daemusin, who is busy expanding the new kingdom's borders in all directions. Dongbuyeo is annexed to the kingdom, never to rise again. Instead it is governed (at least initially) by a younger son of Daemusin of Koguryo.

A small survivor state remains under the command of one Hae Dodu, possibly a son of Hae Daeso. It is known as Galsa Buyeo and it survives until AD 68 when Taejodae of Koguryo conquers it. Little appears to be recorded of it, and it may be little more than a tribal state.

49

Buyeo (Buyeo proper or Galsa Buyeo?) accepts vassal status from the Late Han, an advantageous move as it offers the small state a level of protection against external enemies. Defence from Koguryo is probably the most important issue for the moment, but the nomadic Xianbei are also starting to become a serious threat to the state's west, ranging across the northern borders of China beyond the Great Wall.

Northern Wei tomb figurines
The Xianbei proved to be one of early imperial China's most implacable and unruly problems, with the Tuoba Xianbei even able to forge its own Chinese dynasty in the form of the Northern Wei (tomb figurines from a Northern Wei entombment of the fourth century AD shown here)

c.90 - 112

The Kushan emperor, Kadphises II, expands the borders of his empire up to the limits of Chinese influence, and even sends ambassadors to the imperial court. The same period sees dramatic changes in the superiority of the northern barbarians on Chinese borders. Having been chased out of the Tarim Basin in AD 73, the Xiongnu are forced to flee into the Ili river valley region in AD 91, close to the gateway into Central Asia.

The nomadic Xianbei rapidly expand to fill the void between Buyeo in the northern reaches of Korea to the River Ili which is dominated by the Wusun. The disturbances allow Buyeo to conduct its own westwards raids, but at least one of those strays into Late Han territory (in 111 BC). Relations subsequently have to be patched up.

fl 100s

Butae Wang / Wutae

167 - 174

Despite still being a Late Han ally and - at least nominally - a vassal, Buyeo attacks the Xuantu commandery that had been created to suppress the 'barbarians' on the north-eastern edge of Chinese territory. Good relations are again patched up, this time by 174.

? - 200

Wigut'ae Wang / Wigutae

fl 200s

Ganwigeo Wang / Ganwigeo

fl 200s

Maryeo Wang / Maryeo

? - 285

Uiryo Wang / Uiryeo / Yilü

Committed suicide in the face of Xianbei invasion.

285

A major Xianbei invasion of the state virtually cripples it. Led by Muron Hui, the invasion forces the royal court to relocate to the Korean tribal state of Okjeo where they attempt to refound the former splinter sub-state of Dongbuyeo, although this area is now dominated by and largely integrated into Koguryo. The king commits suicide rather than abandon his lands. Support has to be provided by the Western Jin in order to shore up the state and recover its core territory, but it never fully recovers. Despite the extreme similarity in their names, Yilü and Yilou are considered to be separate persons, not one and the same individual.

Weapons from Buyeo
Shown here are various items of weaponry which were produced by Buyeo and are now on display in the National Museum in Seoul, South Korea

286 - ?

Uira Wang / Yilou

Refounded a reduced Buyeo in Dongbuyeo / Okjeo lands.

? - 346

Hyon Wang / Hyeon / Fuyu Xuan

Captured by Murong Ke of (Former) Yan.

342

In a winter campaign the Xianbei ruler, Murong Ke of (Former) Yan, attacks Koguryo. Its capital, Hwando, is destroyed during the attack and fifty thousand prisoners are taken to be used as slaves. In addition, the queen and dowager queen are both taken prisoner and the king, Gogugwon, is forced to temporarily flee the city. Buyeo is similarly attacked and ransacked, which increases the flow of Koreans from this northernmost state southwards into Koguryo and the Korean peninsula.

346

Buyeo's territory is largely absorbed by Koguryo following a second invasion of Xianbei which destroys its cohesion. A core Buyeo state survives around Harbin, in the region of Heilongjiang Province (now in north-eastern China). This is as a vassal of Koguryo until 494.

346 - ?

?

Unknown probable successor.

? - 384

? / Yeoul

? - 494

Jan

Last ruler of the Buyeo rump state.

494

Having already largely absorbed Buyeo's territory following a second invasion of Xianbei in 346, a core Buyeo state has still survived as a vassal of Koguryo. Now, the rising power of the Wuji (Mohe) forces the surviving royal court of Buyeo to move south into Koguryo where it is absorbed into the nobility. The Wuji, however, are subjugated by Koguryo.